Government Bytes



FAQ

Media Frequently Asked Questions

1) What are your areas of expertise?

NTU analysts and spokespeople have expertise in virtually every area of local, state, and federal taxes and spending, taxpayer rights, interest group behavior, government accountability, individual tax advice, and entitlements.

2) Does NTU investigate and comment on government waste? 

After 40 years in business as a government watchdog, NTU staffers know a boondoggle when they see it. We can help you determine if a government project in your area is really worth the tax dollars being spent. We also receive numerous tips from waste-watchers across the country, and can furnish you with plenty of wasteful spending examples to spice up any story.

3) Do you keep statistics?

NTU and NTU Foundation both keep a large library of statistics, such as federal debt and deficits, the total tax bite on a typical family, distribution of taxes by wealth, comparisons of state and local tax rates and burdens, past and projected growth of Social Security and Medicare spending, government perks, and IRS statistics.

We also conduct and compile research on the effects of raising or lowering taxes, the impact of subsidies or corporate welfare, the cost to taxpayers of various interest groups' agendas in Congress, the effect of various tax or entitlement reforms on the economy, and the growing use of litigation, regulation, and antitrust actions to expand government control over the private sector.

4) Do you rate or track Members of Congress?

Since 1979 NTU has conducted an annual Rating of Congress that shows how often each lawmaker voted to reduce or control taxes, spending, debt, and regulation. Unlike other scorecards, NTU's Rating is based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy, typically 150-250 votes per year.

Also, NTU Foundation's BillTally system provides cost information for every piece of significant spending legislation before Congress and assigns running cost tallies to lawmakers based on what they sponsor. The system, in place since 1991, are not "ratings," but do provide a straightforward perspective that researchers and citizens have found useful in weighing the costs and benefits of Congressional legislation.

5) Are you the group that calculates pensions for elected officials?

NTU is the only organization with a comprehensive database of pension estimates for Members of Congress. We have down-to-the-dollar estimates for Members elected before 1984 and participating in the Civil Service Retirement System, and slightly less detailed estimates for those elected after 1984 and participating in the Federal Employee Retirement System.

If you would like us to perform a custom estimate for one or more lawmakers, please have available the following: years of Congressional, other federal, and active military service, marital status, and age.

We also have pension estimates for former and current Presidents.

6) What about Congressional office costs?

NTU was the first organization to provide meaningful comparisons among House office expenditures as reported on a quarterly basis. We have a comprehensive collection of data that reports dollar expenditures on several categories for each House office, rankings based upon percentage of allowance used, and rankings for postage expenses based on cost per address in each district. Office expense data is not available for the Senate, which has different reporting rules. Nor is any data available for the House prior to 1995, due to incomplete public disclosure rules.

7) Do you have state spokespeople?

NTU staff members in our Alexandria office can provide comment concerning virtually any state or local issue. However, we can also supply the names of knowledgeable allies in your area for live interviews, local perspective, etc. NTU maintains a database of more than 600 citizen activists and organizations across the country.

8) Are you willing to comment on IRS matters?

NTU organized the first legislative coalition on behalf of Taxpayer Bill of Rights in 1988, which was designed to curb IRS abuse. Since then, an NTU official served on the 17-member National Commission on Restructuring the IRS, and helped to implement 1998's IRS Restructuring and Reform Act. We have compiled hundreds of "horror stories" from citizens who have experienced rough IRS treatment, and many of them are willing to be interviewed by members of the media.

9) What about individual tax and consumer matters? 

NTU provides a number of easy-to-understand periodicals and manuals that help citizens make sense of changes to federal tax laws, deal with an IRS audit, challenge local property taxes, and stay informed of important deductions and deadlines. Our spokespeople can give an important perspective on taxes as a non-profit taxpayer advocate.